Digital Dealer 22: Discovering the Magic of Millennials

They are somewhere between 18 and 34, and have a strong aversion to waiting around, feeling pressured or signing actual paperwork. They want most things on their terms – and only if it starts online. Or better yet, a mobile device.

At Digital Dealer 22, the influence of Millennials shaded most sessions with talk about keeping pace with trends in workflow technology, digital habits and workforce changes brought about by this new and powerful buying demographic. From a sales and operational perspective, the Millennial influence on the conference was obvious: the sheer amount of Facebook advertising sessions was an indication of shifting buying habits from “traditional” online websites, to the power of social media platforms.

In other words, there’s little doubt that the next conference will feature at least one Snapchat session. Overall, however, the most frequent mantra uttered in hallways and conference rooms was about time and efficiency, as in delivering the right kind of experience in the right way – at the precisely ideal time.

Translation: mobile.

Mobile First, Last and Only?

Older generations learned to shop for cars by going to dealerships, talking to gear heads, or at least going home to go online. Millennials grew up carrying the Internet on their phone, ordering from Amazon and expecting, as a result, that businesses were able to instantly meet their needs. The reality is that these changes in shopping habits are now how the business of car buying gets done. To that end, one thought leader went so far as to say that “it’s no longer mobile first – it’s mobile only.” He went on to talk about the critical importance of aligning and extending websites through to the search experience, pushing forth the right content to shoppers who may never even leave the browser window to visit the site. It’s a strategy that echoes stats like this: According to the 2017 Cox Automotive Car Buyer Journey, 71 percent of Millennials use their mobile device to research and shop for a car, a usage pattern that’s more than 20 points higher than their Baby Boomer parents.

At the conference, this Millennial-mobile theme ran through most sessions. If the talk was about digital retailing and the connected showroom experience, it started with the assumption of mobile fluency and want-it-now search content strategies that deliver specific inventory data to consumers, such as MSRP and specs.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s Off to Work They Go

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the well-attended sessions dealt with Millennial-driven talent management changes at the dealership – not just in terms of changing shopping patterns, but also cultural shifts within the dealership family. In essence, selling cars to Millennials takes more than just technology, but people who can leverage mobile and digital to enhance and deepen relationships that drive profitability.

To reach that goal, many of today’s successful dealers need to adjust their approach on both sides of the showroom desk, especially if they plan to reduce employee churn – a problem for dealers that currently stands at more than 70 percent. Again, most tactics are designed to align culture with Millennial priorities: greater autonomy, small group implementation, better alignment to skill sets, and the creation of tactical leaders. Ultimately, the customer (Millennials) wants a different experience, and the emerging workforce (Millennials) want to provide it. How, then, do dealers get the two groups together?

From search engine strategies to cultural changes in the automotive workforce, Digital Dealer 22 was influenced by Millennial perspectives on technology, shopping, and earning a living. Evolving to the ideal that comes from this emerging generational force is and will be a part of the magic of car sales – at least until Generation Z comes around.

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